How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

hdr1   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In PhotoshopWe’ve all seen those stunning high dynamic range (HDR) photography on the Web before. For some photographers, the technique simply means touching up a photo to make it look better, but at the same time making it look like nothing was done to it at all. Others go in a different direction, creating a more unreal look and bringing about more of an artistic piece rather than something you’d see in real life.

Whatever the case may be, the results can be pretty impressive, but how is it done exactly? Do you need a fancy camera and special HDR software? Not necessarily.


If you have only one JPEG image, you can create a fake high dynamic range photography look with just a few quick steps in Photoshop. It’s an easy yet effective way to enhance your favorite photos.

What Is HDR?

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is simply about capturing a greater range of tonal detail. This usually entails taking at least three photos at different exposures of the same shot and merging them together. If you don’t have a camera that allows you to manually set the exposure, a tripod, or if the subject is moving, don’t worry; you’re not out of luck.

So, How To Make High Dynamic Range Photos

Here’s the photo we’ll be working on. It’s a single JPEG image straight out of a camera.

before   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

First off, open up the image in Photoshop and duplicate the Background layer by dragging it to the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette or by hitting Ctrl + J (Command + J on a Mac).

layercopy   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

With the layer copy selected, set the blending mode to Overlay.

overlaymode   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Now, go up to the menu bar and click on Image. Scroll down to Adjustments and hit Desaturate.

desat   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

After that, go to ImageAdjustments again, but this time click on Invert (Ctrl + I or Command + I on Mac).

On the menu bar, click on Filter, go to Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. Select a radius of somewhere around 50 pixels or so. If you notice any halos starting to appear around objects, increase the radius accordingly.

Now, copy the Background layer once again. This time, set its blending mode to either Vivid Light or Linear Light. Start lowering the opacity of this layer to your liking. From my experience, you should end up at around 25%, more or less depending on the image you’re working with. It’s entirely up to you, though.

opacity1   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

That’s it. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

after1   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Bonus Tip

Here’s an additional tip you can try out. Here’s another photo that’s been through the same technique explained above:

sel before   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

It looks pretty good, but let’s try to tweak the colors a little to make them pop. Make sure you have no layers selected and click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon.

newfill   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Select Selective Color and start going through the colors and adjusting the sliders to your liking, focusing particularly on any dominant colors in your image.

selective   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Here’s the final result:

sel after   How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Do you have any experience creating HDR images? Has this high dynamic range photography technique worked for your photos? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: MorBCN

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27 Comments -

Helnes

Nice tut. Still prefer making real HDR photos though, eventhough it’s a bit more job

Mohnish Thallavajhula

May be some adjustment to the desaturated overlay would make it even more better!
anyways good one. I liked it.

John McClain

Thanks! I like to copy the Overlay layer sometimes so there’s two of them. It usually works great.

Mohnish Thallavajhula

May be some adjustment to the desaturated overlay would make it even more better!
anyways good one. I liked it.

Axel482

Works almost the same in GIMP. I used a soft light instead of linear light.

John McClain

Cool! I wasn’t aware of that. Thanks for sharing!

Mike

I find the whole “unreal” look of HDR images kind of irritating personally, but I do two tips to offer. I usually do them just until the point that you notice it, and then dial it down slightly.

High Pass
-duplicate the background layer, and enable smart filters so you can change it easily
-change the blending mode to “overlay”, or “soft light for a more subtle effect.
-go to filters–>other–>high pass, and set the slider however you like it.

Unsharp Mask
usually you use this for regular sharpening, and you would turn the amount way up but leave the radius below 3. But you can get a similar effect by setting it to something like
amount: 20
radius: 60
threshold: 0
or some other combination where the radius is 3x the amount.

John McClain

Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing, Mike.

Mike

I find the whole “unreal” look of HDR images kind of irritating personally, but I do two tips to offer. I usually do them just until the point that you notice it, and then dial it down slightly.

High Pass
-duplicate the background layer, and enable smart filters so you can change it easily
-change the blending mode to “overlay”, or “soft light for a more subtle effect.
-go to filters–>other–>high pass, and set the slider however you like it.

Unsharp Mask
usually you use this for regular sharpening, and you would turn the amount way up but leave the radius below 3. But you can get a similar effect by setting it to something like
amount: 20
radius: 60
threshold: 0
or some other combination where the radius is 3x the amount.

cookie

I like HDR but everyone gives you how to’s in photoshop,cs3,4 ect what about photoshop elements? How would one go about it using photoshop element 6,7 the menus are really different

John McClain

Thanks for your comment, cookie. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with PSE. I don’t think it supports HDR, but I’m sure that there’s ways to make HDR looking photos, like what’s being done here.

You might want to pose your question to Answers to see if someone knows how: http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/

cookie

THANKS :)

Guest

Does anyone know of a 1 click app or web app that will fake an HDR? Maybe a couple sliders to control intensity and such.

John McClain

I haven’t seen one yet.

John McClain

Thanks for your comment, cookie. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with PSE. I don’t think it supports HDR, but I’m sure that there’s ways to make HDR looking photos, like what’s being done here.

You might want to pose your question to Answers to see if someone knows how: http://www.makeuseof.com/answe

Logo Design

it isn’t working properly.:s

John McClain

Thanks for your comment. Which step isn’t working?

Creddy

Matiamsat83

Jajja, Thanks! this site rules, congratulations for all your works!, greetings! =)

tp and the wigwams

That first example is pretty shocking – I’m no expert or even an advanced novice but with my untrained eye I can see that example is pretty lame. You still have a white sky even though the tips of the trees are burnt out – looks like you’ve done a bad lasso.
The image has lost the depth it started off with – looks 2D and flat now.
You’ve sharpened up the look of the water so it’s lost the sense of movement it started with.
The colours are too vivid and garish – the trees now look silly and bright. These gave the image depth before, now the only contrast in the image is in the cracks of the rocks – this gives the image an odd scale that makes no sense.
Hats off to you though – it was a boring image to begin with so you set yourself a big challenge to make it look good.

John McClain

Thanks for your comment!

Yeah, the tips of the trees are burnt out because of the Gaussian Blur setting. Adjusting the radius would help. Also, I think I doubled the Overlay layer on that particular image, so that’s intensifying the effect a bit more.

John McClain

Thanks for your comment!

Yeah, the tips of the trees are burnt out because of the Gaussian Blur setting. Adjusting the radius would help. Also, I think I doubled the Overlay layer on that particular image, so that’s intensifying the effect a bit more.

Limo in baltimore

a perfect solution for faking ppl.:)

Limo in baltimore

a perfect solution for faking ppl.:)

Creddy

In Photoshop Elements 8 File, you can use the built in PhotoMerge function to combine 2 or more photos to align and create an HDR photo – go to New PhotoMerge Exposure:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/PhotoshopElements/8.0/Win/Using/WS27E228DC-54FB-468c-A497-8D86FCB2161B.html

Enjoy!

Creddy

In Photoshop Elements 8 File, you can use the built in PhotoMerge function to combine 2 or more photos to align and create an HDR photo – go to New PhotoMerge Exposure:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Ph

Enjoy!

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